Program Information

The College of Architecture and Planning offers one doctoral program: PhD in Geography, Planning, and Design. This research-oriented degree is also the only doctoral program in planning, architecture, or landscape architecture in the state of Colorado. Since 1997, the program has trained students to become high-impact faculty members, professionals, and intellectual leaders in fields that address urgent social and environmental issues.

By integrating the fields of Geography, Planning, and Design, our doctoral students receive an innovative educational experience that enables cutting-edge research and professional contributions. Solving critical urban and environmental problems in the 21st century requires that we move beyond traditional academic silos and modes of knowledge production. Our unique, interdisciplinary degree prepares students to be critical thinkers, engaged scholars, and innovative researchers capable of addressing complex and emergent issues. Our students explore interactions between society and the built and natural environment and engage in research aimed at promoting sustainable, healthy, and socially just communities at local, regional, and global scales. (See below our four Areas of Emphasis.)

Students can take advantage of resources in all departments and fields in the university system, with more than 35 acclaimed faculty members from 11 departments able to supervise and advise dissertation research. Interdisciplinary study and cross-disciplinary inquiry occur in a congenial work environment in one of the most dynamic and fast-growing urban regions in the United States. Students also have the benefit of pursuing their studies only minutes from the beautiful Rocky Mountains. (Click here more about our location.)

Areas of Emphasis

The PhD program provides four interdisciplinary areas of emphasis that leverage diverse yet complementary faculty strengths. Collectively, they encompass the social, environmental, and spatial sciences and reflect our commitment to collaboration and integration across traditional academic disciplines.

To foster livable and resilient communities, cities, and regions, our students and faculty closely examine interactions between governing bodies, members of civil society, and the places they live, while also developing tools and approaches that enable more sustainable futures. Courses and research projects in this area draw from fields related to land use planning, housing and transportation policy, human geography, and community planning.

To protect our natural resources, promote healthy and safe communities, and improve the communication of environmental knowledge, our students and faculty examine diverse social-environmental relationships in built and natural settings. Within this area of emphasis, our courses and projects utilize insights from fields such as human-environment geography, landscape architecture, environmental planning, and physical geography.

To promote social justice and sustainable land use in both local and international contexts, our students and faculty contribute to planning practices and policy pathways that improve the lives and livelihoods of diverse communities and future generations. Within this area of emphasis, our courses and research projects draw on fields such as community planning, environmental justice, and political ecology.

When conducting cutting-edge research, advancing novel theories, and developing creative solutions, our students and faculty are encouraged to employ mixed-methods research approaches. Members of the program use a combination of innovative qualitative and quantitative methodologies, iterative design and decision-making approaches, advanced geospatial technologies, hands-on fieldwork, and engaged public scholarship.

Master of Urban and Regional Planning Students at Orientation

Student Profiles

PhD Faculty

Faculty Profiles

MURPAA Board Member Eugene Howard

Alumni Profiles

Students at 2018 CAP Student Orientation


Students working in a bright studio


01-12-19_view of CU Denver - skyline


Student Resources